Scuba diving inKimbe Bay and Witu Islands
- One of the most biodiverse marine environments in the world
- Dive Kimbe’s famous seamounts crowned by sea whips and schooling fish
- Explore black sand muck sites, patch reefs and the wreck of a Zero fighter
- Ringed by spectacular volcanic island scenery and lush forests
Situated on the northern coast of New Britain, Kimbe Bay is considered by many to be the crown jewel of Papua New Guinea’s scuba diving. The bay’s unique characteristics have created one of the richest and most biologically diverse marine environments in the world – home to around 900 resident species of fish, 400 types of coral, and a dozen visiting cetacean species. In total, around 70% of all Indo-Pacific marine species can be found in the area, and today, this ‘coral crucible’ represents a bastion of community-led marine conservation.
Diving Kimbe Bay and the Witu Islands
Schooling FishYear round
Macro CreaturesYear round
Plentiful reef lifeYear round
Walls & pinnaclesYear round
Healthy coralsYear round
The bay offers over 40 dive sites to explore – mostly seamounts and coral reefs – though only 25 of these are regularly visited. Sites close to the shoreline of New Britain focus on fringing and patch reefs which are dominated by hard corals and bright red sea whips, along with the odd garden of colourful sponges. Dartfish, gobies, and tiger blennies will delight macro enthusiasts, along with hawkfish, shrimp, and pygmy seahorses. And there’s always the possibility of larger species such as barracuda, trevally, fusiliers, and surgeonfish. Signature reef sites include South Emma, Vanessa’s, Christine’s, Susan’s, and Otto’s.
Kimbe Bay’s renowned seamounts – Bradford, Inglis, and Joel’s – are located close to the open waters of the Bismarck Sea and can only be dived when conditions allow. With steep walls dropping to depths of hundreds, if not thousands of metres, these seamounts act as self-contained ecosystems that beckon larger species into the bay. Schooling barracuda are practically a permanent feature at these sites, along with big-eye trevally and dog tooth tuna, while white-tip and grey reef sharks are a common addition. It’s even possible to see the odd scalloped hammerhead shark on an occasional foray up from the depths.
Finally, Kimbe Bay’s only wreck dive, the Zero Wreck, offers the remarkably in-tact remains of a Japanese Mitsubishi Zero fighter. This small plane lies at a depth of just 17-metres and the structure is now decorated by hard corals and anemones.
The Fathers Reefs and Lolobau Island
The diving around the Fathers Reefs focuses on a series of seamounts and pinnacles. Situated in the far northeast of Kimbe Bay, these sites benefit from plenty of nutrients and isolation, guaranteeing thriving coral reefs, abundant critters, and some thrilling pelagic spectacles. Popular sites include Elaine’s, Lesley’s, and Norman’s – all of which offer opportunities for both wide-angle and macro photography – as well as The Arch, which delivers some spectacular scenery. If you’re interested in big fish, sites such as Shaggy’s Reef and Killibob’s Knob are renowned for shark encounters, with silvertips and white-tip reef sharks making appearances during baited dives.
The Witu Islands lie northwest of Kimbe Bay, beyond the Willaumez Peninsula, and they offer a wonderful mix of marine environments and experiences – from critter-crammed black sand slopes to scenic seamounts and thriving fringing reefs. Sites such as Karakafat, Dickies Knob, and Dickies Gonads feature plentiful hard coral coverage that gives way to stands of sponges, sea whips, sea fans, and anemones. Swathes of black coral and toxic corallimorpharia corals are also common. Out in the blue, divers can often spot eagle rays passing by, along with schools of sizable fish such as barracuda, trevally, mackerel, rainbow runners, and dogtooth tuna.
Located at Cape Kurabo, on the western tip of Mundua Island, Goru Arches is a must-see site when visiting the Witu Islands. Adorned with multi-hued soft corals, sea fans, whips, and sponges, these stunning structures provide shelter for snapper, batfish, sweetlips, bumphead parrotfish, and more. Muck diving enthusiasts will also appreciate the black sand environment and interesting critters of the Garove Island caldera and nearby Wire Bay. Fascinating subjects seen here include leaf scorpionfish, nudibranchs, anemonefish, seahorses, ghost pipefish, camel shrimp, and more.
Reef, seamount, wreck
Beginner to Advanced
5 - 30m+
15 - 30+
27 - 31°C
- Killer whale encounters are possible in Kimbe Bay, and guests have been lucky enough to witness feeding activity and mothers caring for their calves.
- Air Niugini is currently the only airline offering direct flights between Port Moresby and Hoskins.
About Kimbe Bay and the Witu Islands
Kimbe Bay stretches from the Willaumez Peninsula in the west to Lolobau Island in the east, along the northern coast of New Britain, Papua New Guinea, and overlooking the Bismarck Sea. The entire region was formed by two periods of tectonic and volcanic activity, and today, is defined by its many volcanic cones and calderas - and truly spectacular scenery. Kimbe Bay itself is bounded by more than half a dozen volcanoes, while Lolobau and the Witu Islands have their own foreboding, fire-forged backdrops. But, while the scenery is certainly special, the sea is by far the biggest attraction in Kimbe Bay, as the reefs are home to close to 900 resident species of fish, 400 types of coral, and a dozen visiting cetaceans.
The Witu Islands are located northwest of Kimbe Bay, over 50-kilometres from the coast of New Britain. Mainly used to cultivate cocoa and copra, this small archipelago incorporates the three main islands of Garove, Unea, and Mundua, as well as five smaller islands. The largest, Garove, is actually the remnants of a large volcano, with a flooded caldera roughly five-kilometres wide. Towards the far northeast edge of Kimbe Bay lies the heavily rainforested Lolobau Island and the surrounding Fathers Reefs. While Lolobau itself is a volcano, it is overshadowed by the 2,300-metre tall Ulawun – or “Father” – volcano located on the mainland which dominates the scenery.
Kimbe Bay occupies a central position along the northern coast of New Britain. The closest international airport is at Port Moresby, the capital city of Papua New Guinea, which lies on the south of the main island. The easiest way to get to Kimbe Bay is to fly into Port Moresby and catch a domestic flight across the water to Hoskins Airport, not far from the heart of the bay. Direct flights are typically offered twice daily, making it possible to arrive in Port Moresby in the morning and catch a flight to Hoskins in the afternoon. Much of Kimbe Bay’s diving is accessible from shore, but visitors wishing to explore the Witu Islands or the Fathers Reefs should book themselves onto a liveaboard itinerary.
Where to stay
Located on the southeast side of the Willaumez Peninsula, Walindi Plantation is the only dive resort in the region, giving guests more or less exclusive access to the delights of Kimbe Bay. Liveaboards are required to reach remote areas such as the Witu Islands and the Fathers Reefs, with two vessels currently operating in partnership with Walindi Resort.
Kimbe Bay is sheltered from any extremes of weather, so scuba diving is possible throughout the year, although the conditions do vary. The wet season runs from December through to April, with calm seas and average water temperatures of 29°C. But visibility is also low at this time, averaging around 15-metres. May through November is the dry season, but the months of July and August often mean strong southeast trade winds that blow across the region which cause rough seas and reduce visibility.
The start and end of the dry season are the best times to scuba dive Kimbe Bay. The weather in May and June create calm seas, clear skies, and minimal wind. During this period, water temperatures are around 31°C and visibility often exceeds 20-metres. Likewise, the months of September through November are known for calm seas and even better visibility thanks to slightly cooler waters of around 27°C. Visibility can exceed 40m+ on the seasmounts.